Going for golf It'll all end in beers

SFO at just gone 1am is a pretty deserted place. I'm quite surprised to see people boarding another plane, but other than that there's virtually no-one around. As far as I'd read, there would be no marshalled cabs, no public transport apart from some late night bus service that doesn't put all its stops on the website, just nothing. Much as I don't really like Uber, my plan was to use them to get to my accommodation.

Deserted terminal is deserted.

Turns out Uber can be pretty cool. There are licensed cabs around, but the app tells me I can request one seat in an "UberPool" thing and it'll come get me outside door 6 of Terminal 2. This ends up being a pool of just me, and off to San Francisco we go. There is zero talk between me and the driver until the end of the street, where I ask him to drop me but he ignores that and takes me right up to the door. The ride came in under 20, both in dollars and minutes.

I didn't really want to be taken to the door, because I can't get in and things are about to look a bit shady. My instructions are to find a key hidden in the base of a flower pot opposite the front door, and that's not really something I want the driver - or anyone - to see, so I dick around on my phone suspiciously until he turns round and fucks off.

The key is easy to find but I'm apparently bad at opening doors. Well, it is late and I have been on the champers rather a lot. Upstairs I enter the flat and am immediately startled.


I had been expecting cats, but not cats like that. Once my heart rate returned to normal I tried to acquaint myself with these surroundings. Figured out how to get cold water out of the tap, and where glasses were stored, seemingly across the way from a shit load of home-vintning kit. Interesting. Had a chat with Helen on Facebook, largely about how I was safely at my destination and unable to figure out how to turn the lights off. None of the light switches turned the lights off and that was quite annoying, because I wanted to sleep. Eventually I twigged that the remote control for the projector was not for the projector, but for numerous lights, and after initially turning a green light on in the kitchen I stumbled across the right incantation to turn the ceiling bulbs off. G'night, San Francisco.

Woke up at about 0730, being eyed with a great deal of suspicion by a young man. Hello, Meowsy.

What's yer problem, like?

Huzzah! Real cats! Though totally not interested in coming to say hello at all. I put my headphones on and snoozed through a podcast or two until eventually Russell appeared. He's the owner of this flat and, thankfully, was expecting to see me. As he entered the living room so did both Meowsy and Jesus, who were each now willing to come say hello given the approval of their carer.

We had a bit of a chat, about US politics and flying and champagne but actually Rusty had to go to work. What! Last I heard he didn't have a job, but apparently that's because I don't read Facebook or ever keep up with the goings on in my friends' lives and he's actually been working for 3 months or so. Well, fine. I guess I'd best amuse myself for the day.

I decided I'd quite like to spend the morning interacting with the cats; the cats decided otherwise, and after feeding time just pissed off out of the room. Bah. So amusing myself meant watching wrestling on my iPad. After NXT I put on a Ron Simmons interview and fell asleep for a bit. Upon waking I thought, sleeping at 11am is bad, I should do some day seizing.

One of the things I remember from last time I stayed with Russell, in 2011, was that he had a fantastic shower. What I hadn't noticed, though, is that this actually isn't the same flat as then. It's in the same building, but a different unit. His shower is much less awesome than before, and in fact it took me way too long to figure out how to even get warm water to come out. Bleurgh. But anyway, once I was clean and emerged, both cats had appeared and decided to start giving and demanding attention. Bit late for that, you awkward things.

So by now it's just gone midday and I've got 5 or so hours to do stuff. I'd looked at how to buy public transport tickets in San Francisco, which I used to know off the top of my head because back in 2007-10 I was visiting pretty regularly. But memory was playing tricks on me, there's no ticket that lets me on both the Muni and BART systems so I thought, fuck it, it's a sunny day anyway, I'll walk.

Ordinarily I wouldn't have imposed on anyone but stayed in a hotel, but when I booked the flights I picked the dates based only on the fact that Mark was also going to visit SF on the same dates. What neither of us noticed, though, was that the first week in February 2016 is Super Bowl week and all hotels are insanely daft expensive. So thank fuck for Russell's hospitality.

Google told me it was around 3 miles to get from the flat to the Embarcadero down at the end of Market, where I could find Super Bowl city. I thought it would be nice to see how the Americans do their big sporting event hysteria, and besides, it's a free thing to do that's pretty unique. Super Bowl 50 seems like a big deal.

The flat is in the mission district, so the first bit of the walk is largely past hipster outlets and taquerias. I really could go a burrito, but not yet. I fight through the crowds outside the Betabrand shop, which is actually the company Russell works for, and further up Valencia I pop into a corner store for a Diet Coke and protein bar. Within a couple more blocks all hipstery niceness has disappeared and there's a flyover and some homeless folk with shopping trolleys and a really shady looking Travelodge at the junction with Market.

Market St is kinda a big deal. It's the delineating factor between numerous districts, north and south, and generally a big artery of the city. The homelessness district gives way to the Twitter office district, where all the men are bearded and thick rimmed. I wonder if I could blag my way in.

My strategy for looking like I don't want to be fucked with is to wear headphones, and it's working a treat. I'm listening to Steve Austin interview Jerry Only from the Misfits, who makes for an entertaining listen but my god he's a bizarre and contradictory man.

After a while I reach Powell, the BART station which s normally my entry point to the city and is right next to the cable car turnaround. Who goes to SF and doesn't take a photo of the cable cars each time? Not me. The streets are very full of people wearing numbered sports shirts, as well as the occasional one which betrays a team or player allegiance. Every lamp post is adorned with a Super Bowl 50 sign and most shops are getting in on the act in one way or another, generally by selling Pepsi.

The nearer Super Bowl city I get, the more fans there are, and then suddenly hello, here's the entrance, and here's a big crowd, and here's some police wielding some seriously heavy artillery. Like a fucking sniper rifle or some shit. Because of the queues I decide the venue can actually go fuck itself; I'd kinda hoped I'd be able to wander around a few stalls or whatever but for a working day I'm really impressed by how crowded and big a deal it is. Go sports!

So, I skirt round the edges of the fenced off area. Next to the Embarcadero centre people are seemingly waiting for someone famous to turn up. There's tons of people, including two loudhailer wielding God botherers who I think might be Westboro Baptist Church, but probably aren't because there's no vicious hatred or picketing. There's loads of extra entrances to the city; a band is playing the main stage and I get a tiny bit tempted to go in, but nah, I don't think this is for me. So instead I reach the waterfront pier district and head towards tourist central, Pier 39.

There's still numbered jerseys everywhere, and an incongruous group of kilted fans drinking from their brown paper bagged cans. Glasgow's Carolina Panthers faction? Who knows. The weather is fantastic and I'm really enjoying the walk, though the annoying spot on my inner thigh is chafing a bit. Austin finishes and I move on to RHLSTP, and decide I finally need a piss. This is excellent timing, as I've now reached probably the busiest toilets in the whole of San Francisco.

Pier 39 is great. I know it's so bloody cheesy but I love the place, and the weather really is utterly perfect - sunny and around 18c. Totally loving my first shorts day of the year. There are fewer sea lions than there used to be and them that are here don't seem to be making any noise. Alcatraz looks wonderful. The Golden Gate Bridge too. By Christ but I love visiting San Francisco.

There's a pub called "Beer" which sells loads of beer and related paraphernalia, but I refuse to go in because of a rogue apostrophe on its tasting menu.

Alcatraz looks great, like I said.

And a GIANT FUCK OFF container ship goes past.

Where'd everyone go?

SF's skyline isn't exactly New York, but I still love it.

San Francisco's skies are full of helicopters advertising shit beer and there's a genuine Goodyear blimp, which makes me smile. By now it's, I dunno, 2.30pm or something. Other than that Diet Coke and protein bar I've had fuck all today, and this is becoming a bit of a problem. I could really do with something to eat and drink, so I walk further along into Fisherman's Wharf, trying to remember the pub I went to a few years ago. But I give up on that idea when I spot Taylor St which, if memory serves, is the Taylor from the Bay & Taylor junction where one of the cable car routes finishes.

San Francisco's public transport is wonderful.

I kinda think about getting the cable car but screw it, I think I'll keep walking. Gotta get some food somewhere. A couple of blocks up I reach Columbus, a bit road which heralds North Beach and I seem to recall there's a Rogue Ales pub around here somewhere. Google maps tells me yep, I'm only a 5 minute walk away in the direction I'm already headed. So of course I head off up Lombard Street to tick off yet another repeat tourist attraction box, the zig zag super steep street.

I remembered from a previous visit that the block immediately beneath the zig zag one is actually steeper, and so it proves. Christ. I don't feel bad at all all day, but at the top of this block I am seriously out of breath.

Shitty lighting is shitty.
Bit steep round here.

Back down to Columbus and a few more blocks I'm at some park (Washington?). There's a pretty cathedral, and that there Rogue Ales place. Excellent, now I can finally have a sit down and some calories.

Inside there is no space to sit at the counter, and a sign saying please seat yourself, we'll bring you beer. So I sit down and browse the menu, which looks great. No-one comes to serve me, however. I wander up to the bar and am impressed by the imperial stout festival they currently have going on, but no punters want to shift for me and no bar staff seem able to see me. The lack of calories has me cranky anyway so this is the last straw and I just leave without getting anything. Bah. I'd been in a great mood until then.

Back outside and continuing along Columbus, nowhere tempts me in as a place where I want to eat or drink. So I just keep walking, past a zillion Italians until oh look, there's Chinatown. San Francisco's Chinatown is seriously Chinese, all the road signs and shops and stuff barely have any English. It also smells like Hong Kong. There's what seems to be a bookmakers, which I thought were illegal; I actually think it's a place which sells nothing but scratch cards. It's very busy.

This is Grant St, which seems to be Chinatown's main artery. I'm not in the mood for Chinese food and anyway everything's a bit too proper restauranty. Really I just want a bar which will sell me a sandwich or something. At the end of Grant I go past the gate and make a right, towards Tunnel Top. Had Mark made it to SF we'd have been meeting for a pint here; had it been open I'd have gone in solo. But it wasn't open, so I carried on and made a left down the really steep Powell St, next to the cable cars and the road I used to walk each time I visited when Yahoo! put me up in what's now the Marriott.

Opposite that hotel is a Lori's diner, and I finally do get something to eat and drink. It's 3.45pm and I'm exhausted, starving, and thirsty as fuck. I've been walking pretty much non-stop since 12.20pm or so and Footpath tells me it's pretty much dead on 7 miles. My thighs hurt a bit, my feet are a tiny bit raw but not much. The Anchor Steam beer goes down very well and I've ordered a sandwich.

American sandiwches are awesome.

The food hits the spot perfectly. I think about getting another but actually it's about time I set off again. Still pretending it's about 6 or 7 years ago, after I eat I go to Walgreens and buy a huge diet Dr Pepper. I love Walgreens, though I still don't and never will love America's habit of displaying only the pre-tax price of everything on the shelves. No, the drink isn't $1.99 is it, it's $2.25 and why don't you just fucking tell me that? Grr.

Back down to Powell and Market and into the BART station. There's a bunch of hinderers and rogues and I like the beggar whose sign says "I ain't gonna lie, I want beer". My card fails to work in the ticket machine so I spunk a $20 bill in order to make a $1.95 ride. D'oh! It's only 3 stops to 16th and Mission, outside of which I go completely the wrong direction because I'm useless in America.

It's a few blocks back to the flat and I'm in. The cats greet me, it's dead on 5pm so Russell's still at work but leaving soon. I chat to him, and Helen, on Facebook. I need a shower, not just because I'm sweaty and that after a 7.5 mile walk but also because that vague bit of chafing in my thighs has turned into a literally bloody mess. Ouch. I ask Rusty if he has any equivalents of Savlon or Germolene or TCP and he doesn't have much but, oh, there's this full marmalade jar of tea tree oil. That'll do! But not until after I sample about 5 different types of homemade booze; the man is making various stouts and porters and wines. The mead is fucking horrible, sorry. At one point he pauses a bit too long in a sentence who telling me that one recipe is "flavoured with my own extraction". Eww.

He has a coat which does this when you use a flash. Maravilloso!

Showered and changed and etc, it's time to head out to Urban Putt. Virtually no-one has responded to my "come drink with me in San Francisco" invite so it looks like it might just be the two of us, but actually the Priest will be making an appearance. Excellent.

We're heading towards Urban Putt, a Kickstarted crazy golf theme bar. These hipsters, eh? But on the way we go past the excellently rejuvenated New Mission cinema and pop into another bar - Docs - because shuffleboard.

I've never played shuffleboard before and don't know the rules. It's basically mini-curling, without brushes. I get a very nice beer and we play doubles with some friends of Russell's who happen to already be incumbent on the board. My few warm up shuffles are terrible but fuck it, let's do this. Russell and I win the first two ends, scoring 1 point each time, and then comes the bit where I gauge strength so perfectly that I end up pushing our opponents pucks(?) over the edge and into gloriously winning positions. They score 6 and 4 in the next two ends, fucking god damn it. We're playing first to 15 and they've gone from being 2-0 down to 10-2 up in no time at all.

I think we end up losing 17-2 or so. Humiliated. I'm told I didn't do badly for a first timer, but that's total bullshit. Look at the score! Though really I was pretty unlucky to knock them into winning positions rather than off the edge. Whatever. It's a good game, but we have other sports to play and so piss off towards Urban Putt. Literally as we exit we bump into the Priest, or "t'other Darren" as we each refer to one another. Huzzah! Now let's go play golf.

Actually, fuck it, let's have some beer served in jam jars with handles first. Bloody hipsters. It's some kind of stout, and really nice, one of those moments which keep happening this year where I wish I wasn't playing the don't-drink-the-same-beer-twice game. But anyway.


You can't take booze on the course, so we finish the drinks and go get some balls and clubs, and play a round of crazy golf. It's fucking brilliant. Each hole is really inventive and unlike pretty much any I've ever seen, but still recognisably difficult. One of them is a game of Labyrinth, one is in a submarine with levers that make depth charge sounds, one of them is a video game hybrid, and several of them have this kinda Heath Robinson shit going on where the ball is transported through gizmos and stuff before coming out of random holes.

Russell totally cheats on the first hole and I'm convinced he does this all the way round, which is why he wins by a country mile. Grr.

Afterwards we grab three lovely leather chairs and get back on the sauce. When it's my round I somehow fail dismally to order things properly and end up with 4 beers: 5, 7, 11 and 15. We talk loads about playing the frequent flyer game, how awesome business/upper/first class is, depression and dead relatives, therapy, and, oh, beer. Because beer is awesome. I've written down "Enyagram" and recall laughing at the idea of Orinoco Flow being therapeutic. I've also been told to read some fiction that I'll like, called Ready Player One. I remain sceptical.

So by now I'm pretty drunk, and so is Russell. You'll note the complete lack of food mentioned since that sandwich at 3.45pm. Russell, the fat bastard, is on a diet which involves eating only one meal a day and that only consists of leaves. Eesh. So we walk back to the flat, bidding farewell to the Priest as he Ubers off. Home and out comes the gin because, well, because. The cats look cute and I swear lots about being unable to transfer photos to my iPad because grr Airdrop. Also that spot on the top of my head is unpleasant.

Hey, Jesus.

I don't even know what time it is that the lights go out and sleep comes. I guess it's like 2am or something. Seems I'm well in the correct timezone. Looking forward to some serious Mexican food on Saturday, mind.

Oh, and all the way throughout preparing for this trip right up to composing this post I've been wondering if I can make some kind of "Super Bowl / superb owl" pun or joke or reference but have completely failed. But here's a superb owl anyway (sadly uncredited, I have no idea where I stole this photo from).

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